Thought for the day: 5/16/2018

Pay no attention to the faults of others, things said or left unsaid by others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is said or left unsaid, done or left undone.
~ The real* Buddha

 

*At least three-quarters of the sayings you see posted on the Web and attributed to "Buddha" are treacly New Age verses with his title attached by someone who wanted to make it look more important. When you see an attribution here, it's taken from a direct translation of the Buddhist Canons or another reputable source. Same goes for The Dalai Lama.

Integrity

Am I doing the “next right thing” as consistently as possible, without expecting recognition or reward, or do I expect to be praised and paid in some way for everything I do?

Intentions are important, because they tell us much about ourselves. Am I a needy person who constantly seeks approval? Am I always looking for ways to make myself look important–to improve my image? (In whose eyes?) Is doing good things part of my addict con job, or am I cultivating the humility and good character that come from plodding on without glory, with only the satisfaction that comes from knowing that I’m doing the best I can?

It’s worth thinking about. I’m the only one who can know my true intentions, and so I’m the only one who can make changes. Or not.

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.

Snuggles

I’m not good at intimacy. I can count the number of folks in my life who have known the Real Me on one hand, with fingers left over.

Charlie the cat is long and lean
The color of the night
And his eyes are green
He likes to snuggle…*

Charlie, being Charlie

With Charlie, snuggling is a fairly formalized proposition. If he doesn’t invite himself, I do so by patting the bed next to me three times. He then waits what he considers an appropriate time–varying from a few seconds to a couple of minutes–to demonstrate that he is, indeed, his own cat and not responding to any orders. Then he hops up and walks back and forth a few times, purring. My position has to be just right; if not, he waits until I’ve completed my part of the ritual. Then he curls up so that his rear feet and head are in one of my hands, his body firmly pressed against my other arm and chest. Purring ensues, usually tapering off into little snores.

Charlie pretty much invented snuggling himself. Continue reading “Snuggles”

The Big Book Races

I recently changed my morning reading habits a bit. For the past few years I’ve been depending mostly on meditation books that were broken down into relatively small pieces, and reading other inspirational (or whatever) books in larger chunks.

This year I picked out two books in addition to the one I’ve been using for a couple of years–books not laid out in a daily reading format–and determined to treat them the same way, taking them in small, easily digestible chunks and then meditating on those readings, instead of trying to cram my head full as has been my habit for most of my life.

I read a few pages at most, stopping at what seems a reasonable point. Sometimes I read only a few paragraphs; on one occasion, only a couple of sentences. I find that I’m getting far more out of the basic text of one of my fellowships, for example, than I ever got when reading a chapter at a time. Cutting it into small chunks makes it far easier to digest and see how it applies to me. It seems that I do better with less to think about, rather than more; with small ideas, rather than big chunks. (In fact the eating/chewing/digesting analogy seems to fit perfectly, now that I think of it.)

This leads me to a problem that I’ve had with “big book” and similar meetings since back in the Dark Ages. Continue reading “The Big Book Races”

Is Something Gaining On You?

The past is behind you; watch where you’re going!

I was just reviewing old bookmarks, and ran across the last blog entry of a writer friend who is no longer with us.  If you want to read it, you can find it here.  Marsha was a fine writer and teacher, and a good person to have in your life.  She brought the pleasures of poetry and literature into the minds and hearts of thousands of students.  A pretty darned good legacy, when you think about it.

Reading her poignant post got me to thinking about the idea of a “life well-lived.”  Who decides about that?  I am agnostic, so I don’t look forward to some Great Beyond.  As far as I know, this is it — the whole show, not a dress rehearsal.  (Although I generally hate being wrong, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken about that; however, logic prevails.)  That being the case, the only life I expect to have beyond the grave is in the memories of people, slowly to fade until the wisps are carried away by the winds of time; a tiny part of the whole, but unnoticed down the years by those to come.

So, unless I want to indulge in magical thinking I have to accept that the sum of my life is my legacy as well, and I have to ask myself whether I’ve lived that life so as to leave something worthwhile behind, however ephemeral.

My desire to take a hard look at that question has varied over the years. I stopped drinking and drugging in 1989 and thought I was sober. As it turned out, I really wasn’t. (Think unaddressed process addiction that far preceded the chemicals.) Only in the past few years, after another “rock bottom,” have I started to deal effectively with that one.

Overall, though, I think my total progress and some of the things I’ve accomplished are probably not to be ashamed of. Whether others share that opinion is none of my business. I’ve slowly come to understand, at least intellectually, that I live in my reality, and what’s going on in someone else’s is not my concern.

However, I think it behooves us all to occasionally look back, think of our lives to date, and decide if they’re something we can be satisfied with.  If we feel as though we’re on the right track, maybe we can attend to the details a bit more closely. If it seems as though we are a bit short, then we might sit back and consider how we can re-map our journey. Perhaps our criterion should be something like, “Have I helped others as much as they’ve helped me.”

I don’t know.  What do you think?

Building A Recovery Toolkit (Part II)

Taken down to its bare essentials, recovery is remarkably simple: replacing the habits and thinking of an addict with those of a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy person. The key is “replacing.” If we remove a bad habit and leave an empty spot, it’s likely that other bad habits will slip into that space. Substitute addictions are an excellent example: eating, sex, gambling, excessive exercising, working, smoking and so forth. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum — and so do addicts. Didn’t we spend a great deal of time and effort trying to fill our empty spaces?

It’s a good idea to start the day with healthy ideas and thoughts. I have two books that I read from each morning, meditating briefly on the ideas they bring. I’m on my second trip through one, and my first through the other. They help me start off in a recovery frame of mind, and with healthy ideas in my head that I can try to implement in my life throughout the day. I make notes of passages that particularly catch my eye, and ideas for things to write about. Often I’ll read a passage in the basic text of one of my recovery fellowships. The idea is to at least begin the day with my head in the right place.

Daily contact with other recovering people is another must for me. Texts don’t count. I need tones of voice and nuance, and my supports need to hear me. It’s easy to hide feelings in a text or email, and I need my supports to know the reality of what’s happening in my life, and as far as possible in my head. I have a core group of folks that I’ve been talking to regularly for years, and they can generally tell when I’m feeding them a load.

Addicts are loners. Even those of us who used around others never let our companions see who we really were, and heaven forbid anyone else should find out! In the process of supporting our legend, we got further and further from the reality of who we were in our own minds. People with poor self-esteem have to protect themselves, and there’s no such thing as an active addict with good self esteem. Which brings up supports.

As recovering people, the most important thing (after abstinence) is learning to trust others. We can’t get the unconditional love that we need without first trusting without conditions. This extends beyond the 4th and 5th Steps; it has to become a part of our daily lives.

We learn to trust by trusting. First, just a little bit: testing the waters. If that goes okay, then a little more, and then a little more. Eventually we learn who we can trust, but we can’t do that without taking at least a little chance. We do that by getting to know our peers in the program: first maybe a couple of people who sound like they know their way around sobriety, along with a couple of folks at our own level of experience. We make phone calls, talk after meetings, maybe go out for pizza. As we get to know them, we develop feelings about who we want for our “core group.” Those are the folks who go on speed dial, that we learn to turn to when things are bothering us. We need three or four of these folks.

We don’t develop relationships like that without trying. I tell the guys I sponsor to call me and three other people every day, and to note it in their journals. (At least they’ll have to open them for that, if nothing else.) My reason for insisting on that is simple: if we don’t get in the habit of calling our supports when we feel good, we’re not going to call them when the crap strikes the propeller. Instead, we’ll recoil back into our addict shells, and that’s the most dangerous place we can be when we’ve got trouble in our lives.

Meetings are a must. They’re available online, by phone, and obviously in person. There is absolutely no excuse for blowing off meetings. Newcomers need one every day. We spent far longer on our addictions than we’ll ever spend on our programs, so we need to knuckle down and take our medicine. I’m diabetic, so I take my metformin every day and watch my diet. I’m also an addict, so I go to meetings, talk to my supports, and watch out for people, places and things. Same difference.

There are dozens of other healthy things to add to our toolkit: meditation classes (I recommend at least a few), yoga, regular get-togethers with supports for fun and games or a movie, reading, bird-watching, hiking and other exercise (always in moderation), classes in all sorts of things — all the stuff that would have interfered with our acting out is now open to us. Some of us enjoy keeping a written record of what we’ve done, so we can go back and remember things we enjoyed (another new experience: wanting to remember).

The important thing is to do it! Leaning on our shovels and telling everyone how some day we’re going to own the company is no way to get long-term sobriety. Active addiction was the worse job we could ever have. Compared to that, a little work to get better is no big deal.

Scary, maybe, but no big deal.

Building A Recovery Toolkit (Part I)

When we first get into the rooms of recovery we hear lots of suggestions. Some of us take them seriously. Others see them as simplistic, and not applicable to people with experience/education/intelligence like ours. I plead guilty to a prolonged membership in that category; it didn’t help my recovery at all. I discovered, after paying a high price, that those suggestions definitely apply to me, and I’m still taking them.

It seems to me that people “in recovery” can be divided into two classes: recovering and getting by. I avoid “drunk”, “relapsed”, “dry drunk” and similar put-downs. While they’re useful in their way, they’re weighed down with derision and emotion. What I’m referring to here is folks who may be abstinent, but who aren’t getting all they could out of recovery. Continue reading “Building A Recovery Toolkit (Part I)”